New research suggests that GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy may hold promise for reducing alcohol cravings in individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD). The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, involved six patients who were being treated with semaglutide, the active ingredient in these drugs, for weight loss. It was found that these patients experienced improvements in their AUD symptoms.
Experts believe that semaglutide may affect dopamine, the "pleasure" hormone that is involved in addiction. By reducing the release of dopamine, semaglutide may make previously rewarding behaviors, such as excessive drinking, less enjoyable. However, the study authors caution that further randomized, placebo-controlled clinical studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of semaglutide as a treatment for AUD.
Currently, there are only three FDA-approved drug treatments for AUD: acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. Semaglutide could potentially become another effective tool for treating this disorder if future studies support its efficacy.
Dr. Alexandra Sowa, a board-certified obesity medicine expert, explained that it is not surprising that a drug used for diabetes and obesity management may also impact AUD. She noted that GLP-1 medications like semaglutide affect various organs, including the brain, and reduce the release of dopamine.
Dr. Jonathan Kaplan, a plastic surgeon, suggested that semaglutide may also be utilized to treat other "OCD-like tendencies" such as nail biting, online shopping, smoking, or vaping.
While semaglutide shows promise for AUD treatment, long-term effects and safety need to be further studied. The most common side effects of semaglutide are gastrointestinal in nature, such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. There is also a potential risk of medullary thyroid cancer, although this has mainly been observed in lab rats rather than humans.
In conclusion, semaglutide may hold potential as a treatment for AUD, but larger studies are needed to confirm its effectiveness. It is currently recommended for individuals who meet other approved criteria for its use, such as diabetes or obesity.